Lake Tahoe pot shop’s future uncertain after business permit expiration
November 20, 2016
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The future of a South Shore medical marijuana dispensary and wellness center is uncertain due to an expired business permit and a landlord's decision to not give consent.
Tahoe Wellness Cooperative, founded in 2009 by owner Cody Bass, was issued a letter Monday, Nov. 14, by the City of South Lake Tahoe, which said it has 30 days to close up shop at its location in Bijou Center.
The major issue appears to be that the owner of the strip of storefronts, Patricia Olson, refused to give consent for the continued operation of the cooperative — a requirement for renewal of the dispensary's business permit.
"Every two years a medical [marijuana] dispensary is required to obtain a renewal of their existing permit. As part of that process they are to submit a letter from the landlord and a non-refundable fee," explained city attorney Tom Watson.
"The Tahoe Wellness Cooperative's permit expired Nov. 9 and we didn't receive an application for renewal until Nov. 11."
The application did not include the $7,000 fee or the consent form from the landlord, according to Watson.
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Olson's attorney Bruce Grego, however, made it clear to Watson that his client would not be giving consent.
"He told me, in no uncertain terms, would the landlord consent to allowing the dispensary to continue. The city is not in a position to tell a property owner that they have to have any sort of business in their building," Watson said.
Olson could not be reached for comment, and Grego said he is not at liberty to speak about the case.
With an expired permit, Watson said Tahoe Wellness Cooperative would have to start from square one with the business application process.
Tahoe Wellness Center's lawyer Henry Wykowski said he believes that the letter issued by the city was done so "in error."
"Cody submitted a completed application to the city," said Wykowski, including a copy of the lease agreement at Bijou Center.
"I don't deny that there is a dispute with the landlord, and we are in the process of resolving that. The matter is in court right now."
According to Wykowski, there are two matters in dispute. The first is over Bass's attempt to buy the property currently housing Tahoe Wellness Cooperative and the neighboring storefronts in Bijou Center.
Bass and a group of investors were set to purchase the parcel and Olson's house as of March 2016.
Wykowski could not provide details on this transaction or why the sale has still not gone through.
He did mention that by withholding consent for the business permit renewal, the landlord was putting pressure on Bass to stop pursuing the purchase of the properties.
"The other dispute is with the landlord, who claims that we are behind on some of the rent. We did get that matter cleared up to the court's satisfaction. The court stopped any eviction based on the showing that we made. The trial is set for some time in February."
Ultimately, Wykowski said the issue of the business permit and consent from Olson comes down to "whether or not a landlord can withhold consent over someone who they are in dispute with."
"We are confident that we will prevail. It is unfair for the city to not wait until we have the trial," noted Wykowski. "We have a valid lease and there is no determination that we have violated any terms."
Wykowski said he will be in touch with the city soon to get the 30-day notice to shut down the business "cleared up."
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